A TREASURY OF HEROES AND HEROINES
A Record of High Endeavour and Strange Adventure from 500 B.C. to 1920 A.D.
CLAYTON EDWARDS Author of "The Story of Evangeline"
Illustrated in Colour by Florence Choate and Elizabeth Curtis
Cupples and Leon Company New York
Copyright, 1920, by Frederick A. Stokes Company
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced without the written permission of the publishers
Printed in the United States of America
It would be pleasant indeed to gather the characters of this book together and listen to the conversation of wholly different but interested couples—for this is a book of contrasts and has been written as such. Lives of the most dramatic and adventurous quality have been gathered from all corners of the earth, and from every age in history, in such a way that they may cover the widest possible variety of human experience.
The publishers believe that such a book would not be complete without some characters that are no less real because they have lived only in the minds of men. No explanation is needed for semi-historical characters like King Arthur, Robin Hood and William Tell, while Don Quixote, the Prince of Madness, and Rip Van Winkle, the Prince of Laziness, have been included, not because they were essentially heroic in themselves (although Don Quixote might well have claimed the laurel) but because they became heroes in the opinion of others through the very qualities that brought about their downfall. As involuntary heroes, they furnish a pleasant contrast to the more serious, actual and transcendental figures of saints, martyrs, warriors, discoverers and statesmen with which these pages are filled; they enrich the "Treasury," widen its range of colors and perform the necessary function of court jesters in the Hall of Fame.
HEROES OF REALITY
I BUDDHA 1
II JULIUS CAESAR 12
III SAINT PATRICK 26
IV KING ARTHUR OF BRITAIN 33
V MOHAMMED 42
VI ALFRED THE GREAT 52
VII ROBIN HOOD 65
VIII SAINT ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY 72
IX DANTE 80
X ROBERT BRUCE 89
XI JEANNE D'ARC 100
XII CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS 114
XIII WILLIAM THE SILENT 127
XIV QUEEN ELIZABETH OF ENGLAND 137
XV SIR FRANCIS DRAKE 146
XVI HENRY HUDSON 156
XVII PETER THE GREAT 165
XVIII GEORGE WASHINGTON 172
XIX JOHN PAUL JONES 187
XX MOLLY PITCHER 196
XXI NAPOLEON BONAPARTE 201
XXII GIUSEPPE GARIBALDI 216
XXIII ABRAHAM LINCOLN 223
XXIV GRACE DARLING 236
XXV FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE 241
XXVI FATHER DAMIEN 248
XXVII CATHERINE BRESHKOVSKY 254
XXVIII THEODORE ROOSEVELT 262
XXIX EDITH CAVELL 272
XXX KING ALBERT OF BELGIUM 278
XXXI MARIA BOTCHKAREVA 286
HEROES OF FICTION
XXXII WILLIAM TELL 297
XXXIII DON QUIXOTE 304
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"Jeanne d'Arc drew the arrow from her breast with the courage of a veteran" Frontispiece
"King Arthur grasped the magic sword that none but the bravest might hold" 36
"Robin Hood's band made merry by killing the King's deer" 68
"'I have not yet begun to fight,' shouted Paul Jones" 188
"The cannon balls fired by Molly Pitcher fell squarely in the British lines" 196
"Don Quixote suffered nobody to draw water from the well" 276
A TREASURY OF HEROES AND HEROINES
About five hundred years before the birth of Christ a mighty king reigned in India over the land of the Sakyas, from which the snowy tops of the Himalaya Mountains could be seen. His name was Suddhodana and he had two wives called Maya and Pajapati; but for a long time they bore him no children, and the King despaired of having an heir to his throne. Then Queen Maya bore a son and after he was born, the legends tell us, she had a dream in which she saw a great multitude of people bowing to her in worship. Wise men were summoned to interpret the dream, and they told her that the King's son, so golden in color and so well formed, was destined for greatness as surely as rivers ran to the sea—that he would become either a mighty conqueror who would subdue all the people of the earth, or a holy saint, a "Buddha" (the word for one enlightened) who would have more power over the minds of men than the mightiest conqueror could gain over their bodies.
All this was confirmed in the minds of the wise men on account of the wonderful portents that took place at the birth of the child: flowers bloomed in barren places and springs gushed from dry rock on the day when the Prince was born. He was named by the King, "Siddartha,"—a word meaning one who always succeeds in what he undertakes—and because of the portents at his birth the King himself bowed down to his own son and did him homage.
Now the King desired greatly that the first of the two prophecies should come to pass. He wished the Prince to be a conqueror, not a Buddha, and extend the power of the Sakyas by the sword through every part of the world. And he did everything in his power to bring this end about and to weaken the possibility that his son should ever be a holy man.
When the child was still very young a further prophecy was made to the King—namely that the Prince would only become a Buddha after he had seen four common sights which for him would be four omens—an old man, a sick man, a dead man and a holy man in the yellow robe of a beggar. Then and then only, said the prophecy, the Prince would leave his country; furthermore, if he remained at home for a certain length of time he would never leave at all, but would turn all his attention to the art of war, and his armies would sweep over the face of the earth like a devouring flame.
The King summoned his counsellors. He commanded them to make sure that no sick men or old men, no funeral escorts or beggars should ever be allowed on the streets of the city when the Prince was passing. All ugly sights were to be kept from him; he was to be surrounded with such pleasures and such beauties that he would never desire to leave his home; he was to know nothing of the meaning of death; poverty was to be hidden; suffering and sorrow of all sorts were to be concealed in his presence. In these ways, thought the King, any desire to be a priest would be stifled in the Prince, and he would at last become a mighty conqueror as the prophecy had foretold.
In pleasure and luxury, surrounded by beautiful attendants, fed on the most delicious viands, hearing no sounds save music, laughter and the voices of delight, Prince Siddartha passed his boyhood. The King allowed him to study under wise men (who taught him only the most carefully prepared lessons), and it was notable that he easily learned all that was imparted to him and in a short time appeared to be wiser than his instructors. It was notable too that he possessed extraordinary skill at arms, for the King sent to him also the keenest archers and the mightiest swordsmen in his dominions, to teach him the art of war. These men whispered to each other that no more terrible warrior had ever been born than Siddartha, who soon was more than a match for the best of them and whose strength in comparison with theirs was as three to one.
When a young man the Prince was married to his cousin Yasodhara. His mother had died in his earliest childhood, but that sad event took place too early for him to remember. Now he was happy in the possession of the most beautiful wife in all his father's dominions, for Yasodhara had been chosen for him on account of her great loveliness as well as for her sunny and gracious nature. Truly in all the history of the world no son of fortune had more in the way of love, treasure, beauty, and all things that make for happiness than the blessed Prince Siddartha!
Up to his twenty-ninth year no sorrowful sight had come before his eyes, and he knew nothing of Death, Sickness or Old Age. Then, however, he stepped into his chariot one day to visit the pleasure grounds of the city, and on his way thither an old man ran across the street and fell in front of the horses and barely escaped death. Siddartha was startled at the sunken eyes, the wrinkled yellow cheeks and the gray locks of an old man, and turning to his attendant asked him what terrible misfortune had brought such a fate upon a fellow creature. And the attendant, inspired, we are told, by Heavenly spirits, said to the Prince that what he had seen was nothing but old age and the lot of all men—a lot to which he himself and the Prince with him must surely come in time.
Sadly the Prince rode back to the Palace with his appetite for pleasure spoiled for the day, and when his father heard what had taken place he was greatly alarmed, for the first of the omens had now been fulfilled.
It was not long before Siddartha looked also on Sickness. Try as he might the King could not keep sorrowful sights from the eyes of his son any longer. One day as the Prince went out behind his splendid horses, a man, writhing in the agony of disease, lay by the roadside, and the Prince was told that he suffered from some complaint of the body such as all men are heir to. And again he returned to the Palace more sad at heart than on the occasion when he had seen Old Age.
When the Prince next went to drive in his chariot another terrible sight met his eyes. He beheld a still form carried upon a bier and asked his companion what it might be. He was told that he was now in the presence of Death, who came at last for all men, cutting them off from their friends and relatives and bearing them away, none knew whither. And the Prince returned to the Palace in deeper sadness than ever. Of what worth were all the joys that surrounded him if they were to be taken from him after he had learned to love them, and how might a man take pleasure in Love and Life if these were to be snatched away as soon as he had grown to realize their full value? The Prince could no longer take delight in the pleasures that surrounded him, or even in the love of his wife, who was about to bear him a child. And he was sick at heart with the fear that he would lose the things that he loved.
When the King heard that three of the four omens had been fulfilled, he trembled with apprehension and stationed guards at all the city gates to intercept the Prince should he fly from home; for now that the prophecy had so far been fulfilled the King was sure it would soon be completed. Nevertheless he sent his soldiers to scour the streets for beggars and holy men and drive them away from the city.
Only a few days afterward, the Prince again went forth in his chariot just as a beggar in yellow robes approached the walls. There was an expression of great peace upon the beggar's countenance, and he seemed far happier than the Prince himself. Siddartha asked the attendant who the man might be and what he did, and he received the reply that the stranger was a priest and sought happiness through giving up all the joys of the earth and begging his bread from door to door—and it seemed to the Prince as though a great light had suddenly burst through the clouds of his unhappiness, and he knew that he too must give up his palace and his pleasures, his wife and his future child and fare forth as a priest. Surely, thought the Prince, all the things that he enjoyed were no better than wraiths of mist that rose from the river in the morning, since like the mist they were forever changing, and must surely be terminated in sickness, old age or death itself; and he resolved to search for things more lasting than the happiness and pleasure of his youth.
He also resolved to leave his kingdom and become a beggar in a foreign land, attempting to find through fasting and contemplation the truth that must lie behind the changing forms of life, for he knew well that there must be some deep cause for all the things that he had witnessed and some impelling force behind the universe. Otherwise the whole earth and all that was in it and all things that breathed upon its bosom would be idle and wicked delusions. And the Prince knew too that in him lay the power to discover the truth if he should search for it diligently and give his whole heart and mind to this one purpose.
Just then a messenger came to him telling him that his wife had borne him a son. On hearing this the Prince cried out that he wished it were otherwise, for his new-born son would be a hindrance to his design and an added bond that he must tear from his heart before he could go away.
That night, however, when all lay sleeping the Prince and one faithful servant made their way secretly from the Palace. It had strangely come to pass, perchance through the work of spirits, that all the guards at the Palace and the city gates were asleep, and the two went forth unhindered, riding on horse-back; and they spurred their horses to the utmost so when the morning came they would be far away. Then the Prince gave his attendant, who was named Channa, all the money and jewels that he possessed and told him to return to the Palace and tell the King that he, the Prince, had gone forth in search of enlightenment and would some day become a Buddha.
When Channa departed, the Prince gave his fine clothes to a beggar who was passing and took in return the beggar's faded yellow robe, and he, who had been used to all the luxuries of the Court, went from door to door begging his food and eating the bitter bread of poverty.
He crossed the river called the Ganges and came at last to a city named Rajagha. And here he soon attracted attention because his appearance and mien were so noble that even his coarse clothes and his new way of life could not disguise him. He called himself a prince no longer, but instead took the name of Gotama, this being one of the names of the family from which he sprang.
In course of time the King of the new country where the Prince was begging his bread and meditating on Life and Death desired to see the holy man of whom he had heard much talk, and he offered the Prince lands and riches. But the Prince told him that he had already laid aside far greater riches than these, and that nothing in life mattered to him except his quest for the truth, which one day he would surely find. And the King, whose name was Bimbasara, asked him when he had found the truth to return and teach it to the people of his country—and this the Prince promised to do.
For a long time the Prince lived in a cave not far from Rajagha and studied the faith of India as it was then taught, but his studies brought him no nearer to gaining the truth. So he went into the wilderness, where, he believed, fasting and meditation might bring him the things he sought.
He traveled southward for many miles and entered the very heart of the great Indian jungle, teeming with poisonous snakes and filled with savage beasts. Here he prayed and fasted, seeking enlightenment; and he carried out his fasts with such severity that he nearly died as a result of them.
While in the jungle the Prince met five other holy men who were so much impressed with his fasts and his thoughtful demeanor that they became his disciples. But when he ceased to fast because he did not come any nearer the truth by going hungry, these disciples left him, believing that he had strayed from the path of the truth and never would gain the enlightenment he sought.
After several years the Prince left the jungle and commenced traveling through the country, begging his food wherever he happened to be. And now he was close to gaining the vision that he so greatly desired, for without his knowledge his years of thought and of self-denial had borne their fruit.
One day, bitterly discouraged, and heartsick with his many failures and temptations, he seated himself beneath a peepul tree with the firm resolve that he would not stir from the spot until he gained the truth that he sought. And while he sat there, the legends tell us, he was assailed by all the powers of darkness and evil, and devils crowded upon him so thickly that they darkened the sky and threw all Nature into convulsions in which the earth shook and the air was filled with thunder. All night the Prince sat motionless and all through the night the evil forces strove to turn him from the truth that they knew he was about to achieve. In the morning they departed, and the Prince as he sat, saw flowers spring up and blossom all around him with miraculous swiftness. The air seemed purer than ever before, the sun was wonderfully bright and a peaceful serenity seemed to enfold the entire earth. And when night came and the stars awoke, the truth for which the Prince had been seeking flowed into his soul. He had indeed become a Buddha.
Gone were the temptations and the sorrows in a divine peace—a peace that became the reward of all disciples of the religion that he founded. This peace was called by him Nirvana and his disciples say he is the only man who attained it in his lifetime, for Nirvana is supposed to come only to the spirits of the dead, who have purified themselves not in one life, but in many. In Buddha's belief (for as Buddha we shall now know him), human beings live many times and receive the reward or the punishment of past existences in those that follow. This belief is known as "the transmigration of souls." It is the foundation of the faith of Buddha which is believed in to-day by millions of persons in India and China, as well as in other countries.
In the truth that Buddha had acquired he learned many things. Chief of them, as he believed, are four great facts of life and nature from which the soul cannot escape—that there will always be sorrow and suffering in the world; that these are caused by clinging to things that are always changing or dying; that the only way to obtain peace is to renounce these things and care for them no longer; and that the only way to live is to walk in the paths of righteousness, honesty, virtue, and to believe in the Buddhist faith.
Buddha also believed that animals have souls just as men do, and that by some good action these animal souls become the souls of men. Then the souls go through many existences. If they are righteous they approach the peace of Nirvana, which is attainable only when they are entirely purified; if they are unrighteous they are cast down again into lower forms of life and once more have to struggle upward toward the truth. There is no escape from the consequences of sin in the Buddhist faith. Just so certainly as a man sins he will be punished for it—if not in this life in the next one—and if his sin is sufficiently deadly he will lose again the form of a man and return to the shape of a snake or a lizard to expiate his wickedness through countless generations.
Heaven and Hell have a place in the belief of Buddha also. They are different from the Heaven and Hell that Christians know because in the Buddhist religion they are only temporary abodes for the spirit between its many existences on earth.
When his new faith had come to him, Buddha left the jungle to preach it to mankind. On his way he met the five disciples that had deserted him and he told them that the truth had indeed come to him and that he was now a Buddha. After they heard him preach they were converted, and after three months the number of Buddha's disciples had increased to sixty, who, like himself, gave all their worldly possessions to assume the garments of beggars and ask for their bread from door to door.
Buddha then told his disciples that they must go in different directions and teach all that desired to learn. He himself went back to Rajagha where King Bimbasara, who desired to know the truth, was living. And he preached to King Bimbasara and converted him, and the King presented Buddha with a bamboo grove in which he might hold his assemblies and preach to the many thousands that now came to hear his sermons.
The fame of Buddha's teachings soon reached his native city and his father, the old King Suddhodana, yearned to see the son who might have been a great conqueror but who had chosen to be one of the most enlightened teachers that the world has ever seen. So he sent a retinue to greet Buddha and ask him to return to his native city. One thousand men went forth upon this errand, but none returned, for all were converted by Buddha and remained to listen to his teachings and then to spread the faith themselves. Then King Suddhodana sent another thousand, and these too remained with Buddha. At last, however, he sent one messenger, the same Channa who had accompanied the Prince when he left the city, and the faithful Channa bore the message to Buddha.
Buddha decided to visit his father and see his family once more, for he desired to bring the faith to the land of the Sakyas. With thousands of his followers accompanying him he went to the royal city and met his father without the walls. And the father's heart was heavy to see how the son had changed, for Buddha was no longer young, strong and handsome, but wrinkled and emaciated, with gray hair and a bent figure from the hardships he had endured in many years of wandering and preaching.
Buddha would not enter the city of his countrymen but preached in a banyan grove without the walls. And when he preached he converted many of his former friends and relatives. His wife whom he had deserted and who had grieved for him ever since, gained happiness once more, for she too, became converted to the Buddhist faith, and entered the Buddhist sisterhood, becoming a nun. Even the King himself was finally converted by Buddha's teaching, and we are told that he too entered the faith and became a disciple. The son that Buddha had only seen once when a day old became a disciple also, and, when he had mastered the teachings of Buddhism, was made a monk in the Buddhist order.
Buddha lived to be eighty years old and all the rest of his life was spent in traveling through the world and preaching the faith wherever he went. The land that he visited most frequently lay on both sides of the river Ganges and for thousands of years has been called the Buddhist Holy Land. Wise men of all ages have believed in the faith as he taught it, and even to-day and in modern European nations there are those that profess to be of the Buddhist faith.
The order of monks that was founded by Buddha is the oldest existing religious order in the world. For nearly two thousand five hundred years these monks have practised renunciation and high thinking and have worn the yellow robes of the holy man and the beggar.
Many tales and legends sprang up concerning Buddha even in his lifetime. In fact it is only through legends that we know he was ever a Prince at all. He had a marvelous faculty for controlling the anger of wild beasts and once tamed an elephant that had killed many people, simply by speaking to it in a quiet tone, at which the great animal, which had been raging through the streets of Rajagha, followed him like a dog. A tale of his great wisdom that is still told by his disciples, is of a woman who had lost her child through Death and who came before Buddha maddened with grief, begging him to bring the child back to life or at least to provide some comfort from the sorrow that tortured her. And Buddha told her to get mustard seed from a house that Death had never visited and when she had done so to bring it to him and he would bring the child back to life.
The poor woman went from door to door asking if Death had visited there, and in every home the answer was "yes!" Nowhere could she find a house that was free from the blight of Death. Then the woman saw that the only happiness lay in renouncing the ties that bound her to other human beings and in seeking the peace of Nirvana, for Buddha had taken this way of teaching her that Death is the common lot of all; and she entered the Buddhist sisterhood and found there the happiness that she sought.
Buddha was supposed to have lived many times and there are many tales of his deeds in previous lives. Some of them tell of happenings when he was an animal and how he finally acquired the human form. Others tell of his good deeds when his spirit had entered the human body but was not yet ennobled sufficiently to become a Buddha.
There are hundreds of such tales in the Buddhist faith. Some deal with Buddha himself; some with his disciples. In all the stories, however, the virtue of self-sacrifice and of renunciation is strongly painted. It is the cornerstone of the Buddhist religion.
When Buddha grew very old he called his disciples around him and enjoined them to preach the faith after he had passed away for he knew that at last the hand of Death was near. He died in a little town in the depths of the jungle, and heavenly music sounded and the trees burst into blossom as his spirit passed away. He was given a funeral with all the honor due to a mighty king and after his body was burned, eight cities requested a share of his ashes. These were placed in eight great tombs, and the ruins can be seen to the present day.
After the death of Buddha the religion that he preached rapidly spread through Asia. To-day it is taught in very different forms in different countries, and the Buddhism of Thibet in China has many elaborate ceremonies attached to it that the Buddhism of India lacks completely. Unlike most of the great religions of the world, Buddhism has never been spread by the sword, but has crept into the minds of men through its own power. And everywhere it is granted that Buddha was a great man and a great teacher, and that many of the principles he taught are second only to those included in the Christian faith.
Once in a great while a man is born with such a temper of brain and will that he seems like a bright star among other men and can do things easily that are impossible for others to accomplish. One hundred years before the birth of Christ such a man was born in the city of Rome. His name was Julius Caesar and he came from a long line of Roman noblemen which ran back so far into history that it not only reached beyond the beginning of Rome itself, but was believed to have sprung from the goddess, Venus. Caesar's father died when he was little more than a boy and his mother was partly responsible for the greatness that he later maintained, for she strove constantly to develop in him those qualities of mind and character that were an inheritance from his family, although they were brought to far greater light in Caesar himself. Little is known of Caesar's boyhood. It is probable that it was not very different from that of other young Romans who belonged to the nobility, or, as it was then called, the patrician class. He had a tutor named Gnipho who was not a Roman by birth, but a Gaul—that is a man who came from one of the less civilized tribes that lived to the north of Italy in the country that is now called modern France—and received from him the usual education.
Apparently Caesar was not a prodigy when a young man, and there seemed little to distinguish him from any other young nobleman who went about the city in dandified apparel with hair oiled and perfumed,—but Caesar had quietly made up his mind to be the first man in Rome and to surpass all others in greatness. Occasionally he showed this resolution. And once on his birthday, when passing the statue of the great conqueror, Alexander, he wept because he had reached an age when Alexander had conquered the entire world, while he, Caesar, as yet had done nothing.
Rome, in Caesar's boyhood, was embroiled in civil war, and the leaders of the Roman armies were constantly fighting among themselves. There had been a great public man named Marius who championed the rights of the common people, or the plebeians, and who was greatly loved by the more humble men of Rome, but Marius had been overthrown by a fierce, cruel nobleman named Sulla, who made himself the head of the Roman State and slew every one who stood in his way.
Here appeared the first sign that Caesar possessed the qualities of greatness—for while still a young man, he dared to defy the terrible Sulla. Caesar had just married Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna, and was ordered by Sulla to divorce her. But he resolutely refused to allow the word of the dictator to come between him and his wife, and was obliged to leave Rome by night to escape Sulla's vengeance. He fled into Samnium, but was followed there by Sulla's soldiers, taken prisoner and brought back to Rome. And Sulla would certainly have put him to death if some powerful men had not interceded for him and asked for his life. "I will grant this boon," said Sulla, with a glance that made them quail, "but take heed for this young man who wears his belt so loosely," meaning that he saw in Caesar dangerous qualities that might one day threaten the elaborate machine of Roman government.
As all young Romans were obliged to serve in the army, and as Caesar was not safe in Rome where Sulla at any time might send assassins to murder him, he went to the far east where a Roman army was waging war against a king named Mithridates. At the siege of a town called Mytelene Caesar so distinguished himself for bravery that he won the civic crown, for saving the life of a fellow soldier in the face of the enemy.
When Sulla died, Caesar returned to Rome, and became one of the leaders of the party that had been against Sulla and his government. And Caesar did everything that he could think of to win power for himself and damage Sulla's adherents. He became an orator and a lawyer and prosecuted certain men who had misused the money of the people. But although it was clearly proved by Caesar that these men were no better than common thieves, the Roman senators and judges were so corrupt that it was impossible for Caesar to have them punished as they deserved.
Caesar was not discouraged, however. He believed that if he had been a better orator the men would have been brought to justice in spite of all the obstacles that stood in his path; so, on the advice of a friend named Cicero, who was the greatest orator in the world at that time, he started on a journey to Rhodes to study rhetoric under a great teacher of that art named Appollonius Molo.
Travel from Rome was as dangerous as going to war, for there were bandits everywhere and the seas swarmed with pirates. And when Caesar took ship to go to Rhodes, the pirates swarmed about his vessel and took him prisoner. Because he was a nobleman and an important person the pirates did not put him to death but demanded ransom for him. They told Caesar the sum of money they had asked and he agreed to obtain it for them, and haughtily told them that he was even greater than they had supposed and worth three times the money they had demanded. So the pirates trebled the amount called for, and told Caesar that if they did not receive it he would be put to a cruel death, but he waited unconcernedly; and while in the hands of the pirates he treated them almost as companions and shared in their games and exercises.
At times he even read to them poems and compositions of his own. But the pirates did not understand the highflown Roman phrases and did not give Caesar the applause that he believed his work had merited.
"By the Gods," he said laughing, "you are ignorant barbarians, unfit to live. When I am freed you had best look to yourselves, for I shall return and nail you to the cross."
The pirates were angered by these words, but they did not slay their bold-tongued captive on account of the money they expected, and when Caesar's ransom came he was set free. But, true to his word, the first thing he did when set ashore was to gather some men and ships and pursue them. Setting upon them with the swiftness of lightning he killed a great number and took many prisoners. And the pirates then found to their cost that he was a man of his word, for Caesar had every prisoner crucified, as he had warned them he would do.
He then continued his journey to Rhodes as if nothing had happened and studied rhetoric under Molo; and so apt a pupil was he that in a very short time he became an orator second only to Cicero himself.
Rome was in great turmoil and confusion at this time, and the vice of the men that ruled had weakened her power. There was a great revolt of slaves not only at Rome but throughout Italy, and the slaves formed into an army strong enough to defeat the Roman legions.
The slaves barred the roads from Rome, captured their former masters and made them fight as gladiators in the arena. They set towns afire, killed women and children, plundered, murdered and cruelly ravaged the country, until they were defeated in battle by two military leaders who were sent against them—a rich man named Crassus, who was one of the most powerful men in Rome, and a soldier named Pompey, who was considered by the Romans to be one of the greatest generals that their city had ever seen.
While these things were being accomplished Caesar had finished his course in rhetoric and returned to Rome, and made his plans to win a glory greater than that of Pompey and Crassus, who were high in public favor through their victory over the slaves.
To succeed in Rome without money was impossible in those days, for large sums had to be expended in bribery and in gaining the favor of the idle and dissolute Roman people, who refused to work but demanded to be amused at the expense of others, and would always follow the man who treated them with the greatest display of liberality. So Caesar borrowed huge sums of money which he planned to repay from the sums he could gain when once he was elected to public offices. It is not to be thought that Caesar always was honest and just, and it has already been shown that sometimes he was heartless and cruel—but in his favor it must be said that he never wantonly injured anybody, as so many others did in the cruel times in which he lived—and that in all things, except where his own power and future were concerned, he was merciful and temperate.
Caesar became an official known as quaestor, going to Spain in charge of certain affairs pertaining to Roman government, and later on he was made a curule aedile.
In this office his generosity delighted the people. Caesar, with borrowed riches, made a lavish display to ensure future political favor at their hands, and was more magnificent than any of the aediles who had preceded him. At one time he displayed in the arena three hundred and twenty pairs of gladiators who fought with swords and spears and with the net and trident,—and he would have brought in a greater number had not the Senate feared to allow so many armed men in Rome at one time. But Caesar did something else that delighted the people even more than the show of the gladiators. One morning they beheld the statues of Marius, that had been overthrown by Sulla, set up once more in their old places, bright with gold and ornaments. Marius had been the people's idol, and Caesar by this bold stroke gained much of the popularity that had formerly been attached to that beloved leader.
Another office that Caesar attempted to win was that of Pontifex Maximus—that is, the High Priest and leader in all of the religious ceremonies of the Romans, an office with great power and prestige and the stepping stone to greater things by far.
Caesar staked everything on winning this office and he increased his debts, which were already enormous, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars in our money, to bribe and flatter and make sure of enough votes to win the election. He was so deeply in debt, he told his mother, that in case he did not win the office he would be obliged to leave Rome, never to return. But luck was on his side and he succeeded, making his term as Pontifex Maximus notable by revising the Roman calendar so thoroughly that, with only slight changes, it is used to-day.
Later on he was made Praetor, and by means of these various offices he succeeded in becoming one of the leading men in Rome—although his greatness was not yet as bright as that of Pompey, who had, as he said, only to stamp his foot to fill Italy with soldiers.
Then there befell in Rome what was known as the conspiracy of Catiline, in which Caesar had a narrow escape from the intrigue and malice of the noblemen who hated him because he was a foe of Sulla's and a champion of the people. Catiline was a nobleman of violent temper and bad reputation. With many companions he strove to win public office in Rome, and plotted, if unsuccessful, to raise an army, set fire to the city and place his party in power by rioting and violence. And under Catiline's government Caesar, who probably knew nothing of the affair, was to be elected to public office in the new government.
The conspiracy was discovered, chiefly through the vigilance of Cicero, who was Consul at the time. Catiline had fled from Rome and was raising an army, but a number of the other plotters were arrested. The noblemen who hated Caesar did everything in their power to have his name included in the list of the conspirators, but Cicero resolutely refused to believe that Caesar had been in league with them and would not press the charges against him. Through the gifted oratory of Cicero, however, a sentence of death was brought against all the prisoners, who were promptly put to death in Cicero's presence.
Caesar's wife, Cornelia, had died sometime before these events took place, and Caesar had then married a relative of Pompey. At the festival of Bona Dea, where only women were admitted, and which was held at Caesar's house because he was Pontifex Maximus, a great scandal took place owing to the fact that a young man, dressed in woman's clothes was discovered hiding in the house while the festival was going on. This bade fair to injure Caesar's name in the city, and partly on this account he divorced his wife, Pompeia, saying that while nothing evil had been proved against her, yet Caesar's wife must be above even the breath of suspicion.
After this Caesar went to Spain to govern that land for the Romans. While there he had much military experience that helped him to become one of the mightiest generals the world has ever seen, and in his struggles against the wild, hill tribes he laid the seeds of success for his later wars in Gaul,—wars in which he was to carry the Roman eagles into lands that had only been known by hearsay and legend.
When Caesar returned from Spain he did his utmost to cement the bonds of friendship between himself and Pompey and Crassus—with Pompey, because he was the greatest man in Rome and because Caesar hoped to rise through his patronage,—with Crassus because he was possessed of fabulous riches, that Caesar would have great need of in fulfilling his ambitious designs. To strengthen his friendship with Pompey he forced his own daughter to marry him. The alliance of these three men is called the First Triumvirate.
Caesar was eager at this time to be elected Consul, an office that would give him great power in the Roman state, and with his usual success and some luck he succeeded in doing so. With him was elected another Consul named Bibulus, who was put into office by the noblemen to check Caesar and limit his ambitious designs, which included doing all that he could to better the condition of the common people. But Caesar soon had the upper hand in all the affairs of the consulship, so that the people said jokingly that the two consuls for the year were Julius and Caesar, instead of Caesar and Bibulus.
Among other things that Caesar accomplished was the passing of a land law that provided land for all of Pompey's old soldiers, and was also designed to give land to the people at Rome who were without occupation and often on the verge of starvation. Naturally this law made Caesar even more popular with Pompey, as for the people they cheered him lustily and said among themselves that this Julius Caesar was certainly a most noble and generous leader. Had he not been the follower of Marius and replaced his statues which were overthrown by tyranny? Had he not provided games the like of which the people had never seen before? And now, by his land law, had he not shown that he was devoted to the poor, ready at all times to fight their battles and to provide generously for them?
Such were the means by which Caesar endeared himself to the Romans. And now was to come the opportunity by which at a single leap he placed himself above all others. The province of Gaul which lay to the northwest of Italy, and included most of what is now modern France, was an extremely rich and fertile country, occupied by wild tribes that were hardly friendly to the Romans. Through his political power, and much scheming, Caesar had himself made governor of all Gaul for five years. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, for he could not only make himself famous as a conqueror by subduing the Gaulish tribes, but could raise an enormous army, devoted to his interests, by which he could take by force the entire control of the Roman State as Sulla had done before him.
Naturally Caesar did not voice these designs, but he entertained them just the same, and began a series of wars in Gaul in which over a million of his enemies are said to have perished on the battlefield.
When Caesar entered upon his duties in governing Gaul, certain tribes came to him with complaints of a people called the Helvetii, who were leaving their own country, or what is now Switzerland, to enter upon the more fertile and less mountainous lands of their neighbors. Caesar mustered his soldiers and marched against the Helvetii, meeting them at a place called Bibracte. Here he showed how skilfully he could direct the Roman legions, for in a comparatively short battle the Helvetii were entirely overthrown, and a terrible slaughter followed. Caesar himself, in writing of this battle, says that out of three hundred and sixty-eight thousand men, women and children, who composed the tribe of the Helvetii, only one hundred and ten thousand were left after the battle. The poor beaten remnant of the tribe he ordered at once to retrace their steps into Switzerland and to enter Gaul no more.
His success in dealing with the Helvetii turned the eyes of all Gaul upon the conqueror. Many tribes then asked his aid against Ariovistus, a German chief who came from across the river Rhine and with his yellow haired followers, clad in the skins of animals, was plundering the Gaulish province. Caesar, with the quickness that always won him success in battle, advanced against Ariovistus and completely defeated him, driving his men in confusion back across the Rhine to the lands they had come from.
In the following spring there was great danger that all Gaul would revolt to free itself from the control of the Romans. Of all the tribes that were opposed to him, Caesar considered that the Belgae, the people who lived in what is now Belgium, were the bravest and the most dangerous enemies against whom he must fight. So he marched against them and placed his legions behind strong fortifications until he could gain a favorable moment to come forth and attack them. The Belgae tried all sorts of tricks and ruses to draw Caesar from his position, but they did not succeed in doing this. Then, perhaps because they had not sufficient food, they commenced a retreat back to their own country, from which they had issued to attack Caesar. On their heels rode the Roman cavalry, who harassed them constantly, darting in and killing stragglers and attacking the rear guard whenever the opportunity offered.
One night, however, when the Romans were about to encamp in some wooded country on the River Sambre, three tribes of the Belgae fell upon them in a surprise attack that came so swiftly and so violently that the Roman legions were almost routed. Caesar's force was not wholly composed of Romans, and all the soldiers under his command except the Romans fled pell mell from the field, but the Roman soldiers, in spite of everything, stood firm, displaying the marvelous discipline that had conquered the world, and soon had victory in their grasp. But the Roman soldiers were seldom merciful and scarcely a foeman escaped the slaughter that followed.
That winter Caesar returned to northern Italy, leaving his legions in Gaul under the command of his lieutenants. In his winter retreat he enjoyed himself and spent enormous sums of money, listening eagerly to news of everything that had taken place in Rome since his departure.
In the following spring his friend and political partner, Crassus, was killed while engaging in battle with the Parthians in the east, leaving Pompey and Caesar the only two men of first importance in Roman affairs. In that year also the Roman Senate prolonged Caesar's rule of Gaul for five years more.
When spring came Caesar led his legions from their winter encampments to battle against their enemies once more, and this time the victims of his skill were two German tribes who had again crossed over the Rhine to invade Gaul.
Caesar routed them and chased them back across the Rhine, building a bridge to pursue them into Germany. Then he came back to Gaul, destroying his bridge behind him; and made his plans to invade the island of Britain, which is now England, Scotland and Wales. In Britain there lived tribes that were considered to hold the last extremity of the earth. Beyond them was nothing except mystery and darkness.
Boats were built by the Roman soldiers, who had been trained by Caesar to turn their hand to any kind of labor, and the Roman army rowed across the English channel to the island where the warlike Britons awaited their coming. The Romans sprang from their boats into water up to their necks and waded ashore to battle, killing and capturing a large number of Britons, many of whom Caesar took back with him into Gaul to adorn his triumphal entry into Rome when his term as governor of Gaul had come to an end.
The Roman Senate was astonished at Caesar's success and all Rome rang with his fame. The island of Britain was held to be the last extreme that Roman arms could reach, and hitherto had been nothing but a place of fables and wild sea tales, and the Senate declared a thanksgiving in Caesar's honor that was to last twenty days.
That winter Caesar again returned to northern Italy, leaving his army under the command of his lieutenants, for, possessed of a great ambition to become the ruler of Rome, he desired to learn everything that was taking place there. His absence was taken by the Gauls as a sign that his power was weakening, and they considered that they had a splendid chance to revolt successfully and throw off the Roman power. And among them there sprang up a leader named Vercingetorix, who in his way was almost as great a genius as Caesar himself, possessed of boundless courage and hardihood.
A revolt in Gaul at that time would endanger all Caesar's chances for success in Rome. Should his army be overcome he would have no means of enforcing his power there, and a defeat would utterly destroy the prestige that he had built up among the Romans at the cost of so much money and labor. So Caesar hurried across the Alps and after maneuvering his legions in a manner that showed to the world he was a genius in the art of war, he succeeded in surrounding the greater part of the forces of Vercingetorix.
To save his comrades Vercingetorix gave in to Caesar, and galloped out of his stronghold to give up his sword. He laid his arms at Caesar's feet and surrendered himself as a captive. Caesar kept him as a prisoner for a number of years, after which time he was taken to Rome and forced to walk in the triumph of the conqueror. Then he suffered the fate of the captives of Rome. He was shut up in a dungeon and strangled, and his body was thrown upon one of the refuse heaps of the mighty city.
Continued success in Gaul had by this time made Caesar's name so great in Rome that the Senate had grown to fear him. Pompey too was jealous of his growing power, and Caesar was finally ordered by the Senate to disband his army. The two officers of the people, called the tribunes, whose names were Antony and Cassius, vetoed this act on the part of the Senate, and were hunted from Rome and fled to Caesar's camp for refuge.
Then the Senate, wildly afraid that Caesar would return at the head of his troops and become a tyrant like Sulla, declared war against Caesar and put in Pompey's hands the task of humbling his former friend. Caesar had no intention of disbanding his troops. His soldiers loved him deeply and would follow wherever he led them. And Caesar exhorted his men to stand by him, promising them honor and riches if he should succeed in overcoming his enemies at Rome, and the men with wild cheers swore that they would follow him to the death.
At the head of a powerful and well disciplined army that was devoted to him, Caesar advanced on Rome. When he came to a stream called the Rubicon, which marked the limit of his power as governor of Gaul, he hesitated for a brief time, as there was still time for him to draw back from his tremendous venture had he seen fit to do so—but at length he plunged into the stream with the remark, "The die is cast," and advanced upon the city that he intended to win for himself.
Pompey had been through an exceedingly hard time in getting soldiers to follow his banner, for the reputation of Caesar was very formidable and his army even more so. Finding that it was impossible to make a stand against Caesar in Italy, Pompey fled across the Mediterranean Sea, leaving Caesar the master of Rome and Italy as well. Caesar, however, was not in the habit of leaving an enemy to fly unmolested. He pursued Pompey to Thessaly and there fought a battle against him in which Pompey was utterly defeated and his soldiers scattered and routed. Pompey fled to Egypt, where Caesar followed him—and the first thing that was brought to Caesar when he arrived was Pompey's head. The once great Roman had been treacherously murdered by the Egyptians, who believed that in so doing they would curry favor with Caesar.
In Egypt there was a beautiful queen named Cleopatra, who used all her great art to force Caesar to fall in love with her. She believed that when he loved her he would place her firmly on the Egyptian throne and send the Roman soldiers against her enemies. So completely did she succeed that Caesar, who never had been averse to the charms of beautiful women, remained at her court for a considerable time and led his armies against a king named Pharnaces at Cleopatra's bidding. After this he returned to Rome, where he was made dictator, with absolute power, and was as great as Sulla had ever been.
But there were still a number of Romans who refused to submit to his power, and Caesar was compelled to go once more to Africa to vanquish Pompey's friends, Scipio and Cato, who were raising a new army against him. With his usual military genius, he overthrew them easily and returned again to Rome.
Nothing in Roman history equalled his welcome there. He was received as a returning king and the honors that were heaped upon him were greater than had been given to any other Roman in all the long centuries that Rome had been a city. He was called "Father of His Country" and had a bodyguard of Roman noblemen to accompany him wherever he went. His person was considered sacred, and the month of Quintilis was called after his name, July, for Julius, the name it has borne from that far time to the present day.
Now, in his hour of triumph and greatness, Caesar showed himself of far different mettle from any Roman who had previously gained power over the state. He did not mar his success by murdering his enemies as Sulla had done, but rather sought to be the friend of all, and busied himself with good deeds and public works that would benefit the people. And while a royal crown was offered to him many times,—notably by the same Marc Antony who had fled to his camp as a fugitive when the Senate rose against his power—Caesar refused to accept it, believing that he could govern wisely and temperately without the name of King, which was bitter in the ears of all true Romans.
However, his kindness did not save him, and his glory was short lived. Certain Romans considered that their state had fallen under the power of a tyrant, and believed that Rome could be brought back to its former freedom by Caesar's death. A conspiracy was hatched against him among the senators, and one of its leaders was a man named Brutus, to whom Caesar had shown every kindness. Brutus, with his comrade, Cassius, and some sixty others held secret meetings at night in which they discussed the best way to murder Caesar, and it was finally decided that they would fall upon him with swords and daggers when he entered the Senate House.
In connection with this evil plot a strange thing happened. Caesar was approached by an old man who claimed to be a prophet or a soothsayer. This man warned him that on a certain day, which began what was called the Ides of March, he must not stir out of his house or evil would come to him. Caesar laughed at this prediction, but on the night before this very day, his wife, Calpurnia, had an evil dream in which she beheld specters walking in the streets of Rome; and she begged Caesar as he loved her to remain at home. Caesar was about to give in to her request when Brutus called at his house to take him to the Senate, and, knowing of the conspiracy, of which he was one of the leaders, Brutus ridiculed Caesar for being frightened by the dream of his wife and persuaded him to go, although Calpurnia wept bitterly when he departed, believing that she would never see him again.
On the way to the Senate Caesar passed the soothsayer, and remembering his prediction called out to him that the Ides of March were come.
"Aye, Caesar," replied the strange old man, "but not yet past." And Caesar entered the Senate.
As he took his place he was surrounded by the conspirators who crowded about him with their weapons ready to hand under their cloaks and robes, and while one of their number presented a petition to Caesar, and drew his cloak aside, Casca, another conspirator, stabbed him from behind. Then, as Caesar turned and grasped Casca's arm, the whole murderous pack of them set upon him, crowding and jostling each other to drive their weapons into his body. And when Caesar saw the hand of Brutus, his best friend, treacherously raised against him, he drew his cloak over his face so that he might keep his dignity in the agony of death, and exclaiming "You, too, Brutus?" fell at the base of Pompey's statue, which was stained with the life blood of the man who had conquered him.
So died Julius Caesar, whose name is even brighter after two thousand years than it was in the time when he lived. As to the conspirators they profited nothing by their deed, for the Romans, inspired by an oration made at Caesar's bier by Marc Antony, set fire to their dwellings and drove them from the city. Within three years not one of them remained alive. Rome soon proved that she could not live without a master, and the power that Caesar had won passed into other hands that were not so great or worthy as his own.
No saint's name is more familiar than holy Saint Patrick's. Legends have sprung up around it as thick as the grass of Ireland from which he is believed to have chased the serpents into the sea—but in all the calendar hardly a saint is known less about than this marvelous man, who carried the Christian religion to every corner of the emerald island.
Saint Patrick was not a native of Ireland—he was born, perhaps in 373 A.D., in the little town of Banavem Taberniae, a Roman town in ancient Scotland not far from the modern city of Glasgow. Rome had ruled the world for hundreds of years and the swords of her soldiers had been uplifted in every known land. Hence it was that Saint Patrick came into the world as a future citizen of Rome and the son of a wealthy and respected Roman colonist. His father was named Calpornius and was a deacon of the Christian church in the town where he lived, and the mother of the future saint was also a devout Christian, the niece of the renowned Bishop Martin of the city of Tours in France.
Calpornius and his wife were so ardent in religion that they spent day and night in teaching their son the story of the gospel and the psalms. They desired first of all that he should be a good Christian and a bearer of the faith—but they wearied the growing boy with long hours of study and monotonous recitals of religious hymns and proverbs when he was eager to be ranging the hills or playing with his fellows. At that time he had no particular desire to be a priest, and, like most boys, was far more interested in the stories of heroes than the stories of saints, preferring to hear of the wild Scottish chiefs and the Roman Generals with whom they had engaged in bitter warfare.
He thirsted for adventure, and adventure was to come to him. Those were wild days, and law only reached as far as it could be upheld by the sword and the arrow. Pirates harried the seas and from the north the galleys of the sea robbers were soon to range southward in search of lands where plunder was to be found and men and women to be carried into slavery.
One night, when a gale was blowing from the northeast, St. Patrick, we are told, sat with some friends in the glowing light of a great peat fire, where they warmed themselves at the same time that they told stories of adventure and sang Scottish songs as wild and melancholy as the wind that was scouring the hills. Saint Patrick was now a lad of sixteen, with well knit limbs and a powerful body that made him appear older than he really was, and at the same time gave promise of greater strength to come. He listened keenly to the singing, but at the same time gave ear to sounds that he heard without the hut, for the rough voices of men speaking an unknown tongue seemed to be mingling with the noise of the storm. At last he sprang up with a shout of warning, a shout that was answered by a battle cry from without. A pirate galley had made its way to the shore and the crew were engaged on a raid to capture slaves. Some of Saint Patrick's companions were clubbed or cut down where they sat, but he was thrown and strongly bound, dragged roughly to the shore and tossed on board the robber craft that quickly made its way to sea in spite of the tremendous surf that broke over the backs of the oarsmen.
For several days they fought the sea and at last came to the coast of northern Ireland, where Saint Patrick was sold as a slave to an Irish chief named Miliuc. It is probable that the pirates gained a rich reward for the clean-limbed boy, whose strength and ability were evident to all who saw him. When the bargain was finished they boarded their vessel and sailed away, leaving the luckless boy in the hands of his new master.
And straightway there commenced for Saint Patrick a bitterly hard life, for little kindness was wasted on those who were sold into bondage, and slaves were compelled to labor terribly with aching muscles and empty bellies, beaten and cuffed at the whim of their master—who had a perfect right to slay them if he so desired Hunger, blows and fatigue were Saint Patrick's portion and were added to the homesickness of a young man torn from affectionate parents.
And then Saint Patrick found consolation in the religious teachings that had been drummed into his unwilling ears, and in the midst of his suffering he turned to his faith for comfort. He remembered the psalms that had been taught by his father and mother and said them repeatedly, and he even forbore at times to eat his meagre rations, thinking that by fasting he might prove worthy in the eyes of the Lord.
And one night he had a dream in which he heard a voice, which said to him: "Fast no more, but fly, for a vessel now awaits you to carry you away from your bondage. Truly you shall behold your parents again and once more be free and happy."
Saint Patrick woke in amazement after this dream, but he was so certain that the voice which spoke to him was real that he did not hesitate to obey it. Watching his opportunity he slipped away from the chief who had held him for six years in bitter servitude, and walking and running by turns he made his way southward in search of the vessel that he knew must be awaiting him.
He did not concern himself about the path, for he felt that Heaven would guide him; and indeed after he had marched for two hundred miles, he came to the coast, and just as he had dreamed a vessel lay at anchor near the shore and some of the sailors were standing on the beach.
Saint Patrick ran up to them and implored the captain to carry him away from Ireland back to his own country. His wild appearance startled the master of the vessel, but after considerable doubt the captain consented, and Saint Patrick boarded the ship where he was to work his passage across the channel.
They set sail at once and bent their backs to the oars, for in those days ships were moved over the water by rowers as well as by sails; and after three days they came not to Scotland, but the shore of France, landing in a wild and desolate region where no human habitation was to be seen. Their provision had run low and they were in danger of dying of hunger, when the captain, who had closely watched Saint Patrick during the voyage and observed his piety, asked him to pray to the Christian god to bring them food, for the captain himself was not a Christian and believed that his own prayers would be worthless on this account. And Saint Patrick knelt and prayed, and before he had risen to his feet again a wild boar ran from the thicket and then another and still a third, all of which were promptly slain and the meat roasted on sticks.
Then Saint Patrick bade farewell to his shipmates, and made his way to the city of Tours, where to his joy he met Bishop Martin, who was his own great uncle. And he stayed at the home of the Bishop for four years.
After this time he tried again to reach Scotland, to which he was drawn every hour by ties of blood and affection; and at last he embarked on a vessel bound to a port very near his own native town. He found his father and mother still living and they rejoiced mightily to see him, for to them he was as one who had returned from the dead. In place of the boy they had lost there appeared a tall and finely built man with a face hardened by toil but made noble by thought and suffering. And they had a feast to celebrate his return and wept for joy because they had their son again.
But the dreams that Saint Patrick had experienced in Ireland once more came to him, and in his sleep he heard the Heavenly voice telling him that he had been rescued from slavery for no mean or ordinary purpose, but must go again into Ireland as a priest, and teach the Christian religion to the savage Irish clans. So Saint Patrick knew that he must return to Ireland, and, bidding his parents farewell, he departed to become a priest in preparation for the labor that lay before him.
He studied to such purpose that he became a Bishop, celebrated for his learning and famous among the clergymen; and when this was accomplished he set sail once more for Ireland with a retinue of priests and clergymen accompanying him. But although he was going to a savage land where he had already experienced much bitterness and sorrow, he went unarmed, and among his entire company there was not so much as a single sword or lance.
He came to a place called Strangford Lough and there landed with his band of missionaries. The Irish fled at his approach, for they feared that the tall man who bore the cross was the leader of an invading army, and also that he possessed the arts of magic by which he would do injury to them.
Many of the Irish believed in the religion of the Druids—a strange faith that brought in the magic arts and endeavored to teach above all other things that a man's soul when he dies enters another human body. This belief was widely established throughout the world, and it is true that many persons beside the Druids believed in it; but the Druids had other beliefs that were cruel and dangerous. They were said to perform human sacrifices and their priests to practise black magic. These priests wore about their necks the "serpent's egg," a ball formed of the spittle of many poisonous snakes; they knew many strange things about animals and plants and held the oak tree to be sacred. For this reason they worshipped in oaken groves, and considered the mistletoe that grew around oak trees to have divine powers. It was cut by white-robed priests with golden knives in an impressive ceremony.
It can readily be seen that such people, who believed in such a faith, would not easily become Christians. Their priests were clever and knew how to place the stamp of fear and wonder on their minds. And—in company with all other people in those days—the Irish distrusted outsiders and were far more ready to believe them coming in treachery than in friendship.
When Saint Patrick and his followers set foot in Ireland it was the time of a great religious festival in which no lights were allowed to be lit or fires to be kindled for several days. Saint Patrick knew this, for he was well versed in the religious customs of the Irish, and he knew, too, that the penalty for disobeying the priestly order was a terrible death.
None the less, and in spite of being unarmed, he ordered his followers to build an enormous fire that could be seen for miles. When the great logs and the faggots were piled together Saint Patrick kindled the pile with his own hands and the flames shot high in the air, throwing strange shadows on the trees and causing the Irish to cry out in fear and astonishment. The Druid priests were greatly angered and perturbed at what Saint Patrick had done, and they went at once to the King, who was named Laoghaire MacNeill, telling him that the foreign band had desecrated the Druid faith and must be punished with death. Then the King told the priests to go and fetch Saint Patrick and bring him to judgment, but the priests feared the fire that had been kindled, thinking that it had magic powers. So they went as far as they dared and called out to Saint Patrick, summoning him to appear before the judges of the land.
Promptly and with fearless demeanor, Saint Patrick joined the priests and was taken before the King. And when the King demanded of him how he had dared to disobey the laws of the country and profane its religion, Saint Patrick answered that he did so because the light of the Christian faith was infinitely brighter than the light of any fire that he or any one else had power to kindle; and that the fire he had built was merely a sign to call the Irish to the worship of the true God. Then he preached, and his words were so wise and spoken with such weight of eloquence that many that heard him became Christians on the spot, and the work of converting Ireland was soon well under way.
There were many of the Irish that loved Saint Patrick, but he had many bitter enemies. On one occasion a powerful Irishman, who was enraged at the Saint for having taken a stone sacred to the Druids for a Christian altar, vowed that he must die. So he lay in wait in a patch of woods near a road over which he knew Saint Patrick would pass, with a sharp javelin to pierce his heart.
Saint Patrick had an Irish boy for his servant and this boy knew of the threat and the place and was greatly afraid for the life of his beloved master. But he knew, too, that it would be useless to ask Saint Patrick to go by another road, for fear was unknown to him. So the boy pretended to be weary and asked Saint Patrick to take the reins of the horse that they were driving; and the brave lad seated himself in his master's place. They came to the wood; there was a sudden stirring of the bushes and the hiss of a javelin which imbedded itself in the boy's heart, killing him instantly. The assassin had taken his master for the ordinary driver and Saint Patrick's life was saved.
Ardently the Saint set to work to bring about the conversion of the Irish, and he did his work so well that when he became an old man there were no heathen left in Ireland, and his name was loved and venerated from one end of the island to the other. And the legends grew up so quickly about him that it is hard to separate the true from the false.
He had written a famous hymn which was called "the breastplate," being as he said the best and strongest armor he or any other Christian could bear, since it was a confession of his faith in the Christian religion. On many occasions, when men sought his life, it is said he chanted this hymn and they let him pass.
Saint Patrick is said to have driven all the snakes out of Ireland into the sea—and it is notable that there are no snakes there to-day. And the other marvelous things he is believed to have accomplished are manifold. He died at a ripe old age and from the day of his death to the present one no man has been more revered in the land where he labored,—for the name of Saint Patrick is in every Irish heart and Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated by Irishmen in every part of the world.
KING ARTHUR OF BRITAIN
More than fourteen centuries ago there lived in the Island of Britain a very wise king named Uther Pendragon. And at his court there dwelt an enchanter of great art whose name was Merlin. Now Merlin, among his other arts, had the power of seeing into the future, and what he could not prevent he could often foretell; and looking forward with this art of his, Merlin saw that after the death of King Uther there would be war and confusion in Britain; and the only one who could save the land would be the King's son, Arthur. But Merlin knew that the King would not live very long, and that Arthur was too weak to govern as a child—nay more, that unless Arthur were concealed he would be murdered by the noblemen that sought to obtain the kingdom. So he told this to King Uther, and they agreed to hide the child and have him reared in secret. And for this purpose they gave him to a nobleman named Sir Hector de Bonmaison, who was possessed of a good heart, telling him that the child, though of noble blood, was no better than a waif whose parents were both dead.
Everything that Merlin foresaw then came to pass. King Uther Pendragon died, and war and confusion seized Britain. For eighteen years there was no peace or safety in the land, and at the end of this time the people were weary of bloodshed and sought a King who should govern them with a strong hand.
Merlin was known to be the wisest man in the entire land, if not in all the world, and the Archbishop of Canterbury came to him and sought advice concerning a worthy King for Britain. And Merlin, thinking of Arthur, prepared by enchantment a test whereby the rightful King of Britain should be known. In front of the cathedral there appeared a great block of marble with an anvil upon it, and into the anvil was thrust a great, bright sword that shone full as brilliantly as the stars themselves; and on the handle of the sword was a legend saying that whosoever could draw the sword from the anvil was the rightful King of Britain.
A mighty tournament was then proclaimed, and after the tournament all the nobles were to attempt to draw out the sword from the anvil. All the great men in the land were to be present and the one who drew the sword was to be proclaimed as King.
Sir Hector de Bonmaison went to the tournament, and with him went his rightful son, Sir Kay, and the boy, Arthur. Sir Kay was a powerful knight famous in war and he intended to win the tournament for the credit of his house. And it seemed as if he would indeed succeed, for with his sword he struck down all that were opposed to him—until the sword snapped and left him without a weapon.
Then Sir Kay called Arthur to his side and bade the boy get him another sword, and quickly. And Arthur, who knew nothing about the sword in front of the cathedral, except that he had seen it there, ran to that spot and sprang upon the marble block—and when he pulled upon the haft of the sword it came forth from the iron block into his hand as easily as though it had been thrust into a pat of butter, and with it he ran to Sir Kay.
But Sir Kay when he saw it looked strangely upon Arthur and bade the lad say straightway where he had obtained it; and when Sir Kay heard how Arthur had pulled it from the anvil he fought no more, for an evil scheme had come into his mind,—and going to his father, he said that he himself had drawn the sword from the anvil and so must be the rightful King of Britain.
Marveling greatly, Sir Hector with Arthur and Sir Kay went to the cathedral and Sir Kay tried to thrust the sword back into the metal, but could not do it. Then Arthur took the sword and thrust it in as easily as though the iron were soft earth, and for all his efforts Sir Kay could not draw it forth again. But Arthur drew it forth and thrust it back—and then did so once more—and at this Sir Hector knew that the child whom he had reared was no other than the son of King Uther Pendragon, and kneeling at Arthur's feet, both he and Sir Kay offered him their homage.
And then all the nobles and the kings and the great men in the land gathered about the cathedral and tried one after one to draw the sword. And none could stir it. But Arthur drew the sword so easily that he needed but to lay one hand upon the hilt to have it come into his grasp—and after much amazement and doubt and further trials the people of Britain proclaimed Arthur as their King.
It was soon seen that this lad who had been reared in obscurity and was hitherto unknown, was to be a greater King than even his father had been before him. For Arthur quelled the wars that had been ravaging the country and brought justice and peace to all the land; and those that rose against him he punished with a hand of iron. But all the people loved the young King, who was knightly and chivalrous, and the fame of his deeds rang through his dominions. For in all Britain there was no knight better than he with sword and lance,—no surer horseman or bolder warrior than the King himself. And for a time he conducted himself according to the fashion of noble knights and rode abroad combatting evil and conquering all those who sought to oppose him.
Everywhere that Arthur went the enchanter Merlin watched over him, and on more than one occasion Merlin saved his life. And the wise old man with his enchanter's art looked into the future and saw where Arthur would gain the strength and power that has made his name live down to the present day,—aye, and that will make it shine long after those who read this book are laid away in their own tombs and forgotten!
Merlin knew that in a certain lake that lay in a land of enchantment in Arthur's dominions, there was a marvelous sword called "Excalibur," possessed of such great power that all those who fought against it must fall,—while in the scabbard of the sword there rested the healing virtue that nobody who wore it could ever be wounded or lose any blood in battle.
Many knights had tried to gain this sword, but a terrible fate had befallen them without exception,—for nobody could claim it who was not true at heart, and who knew not the meaning of the word fear. The sword itself was held in a mighty arm that uplifted itself from the center of the lake, and this arm was clothed in the purest white, marvelous to look upon.
Merlin took Arthur to the edge of the lake, and the King beheld the great arm holding the sword above the water; and when he saw it he was possessed of the desire to have it for his own, for the blade gleamed like the sunlight, the handle was bright with the purest gold and jewels, and there seemed to be a greater strength and a luster in it than the work of mortal hands could bring about.
While the King with Merlin stood at the edge of the lake and wondered how it would be possible to obtain the sword, all of a sudden a barge appeared in the shape of a beautiful white swan. In it stood a radiant lady, clad all in green with white pearls in her hair and pearls like drops of weeping mist all over her garments—which themselves appeared like woven and intermingled rushes. The boat made its way through the water without motive power, until it grated gently on the sands where Arthur and Merlin were standing. And the lady spoke to Arthur and told him that she was no other than the Lady of the Lake and that the sword, Excalibur, should be his own. And Arthur stepped into the boat, which promptly left the shore and glided straight as an arrow to the place where the sword appeared.
Although the King had never felt fear in his life, he felt a wonder approaching to fear at the mystic, white hand that grasped the handle of Excalibur so firmly; but leaning from the boat he took the sword, and the hand at once disappeared in the waters of the lake. And due to Merlin's gifts of magic, Arthur himself was able to look into the future at that time and see one thing—namely, that when his reign was over and he himself sore wounded and near to death, he must return Excalibur to the hand that gave it to him, casting it back into the lake before he died.
With Excalibur at his side, Arthur was invincible in war and he struck down all that opposed him—but he was so chivalrous that he never used the sword except against the wicked, and from that time on forbore to do any battle in the way of sport, but fought only against his enemies.
King Arthur had beheld a lady named Guinevere at Cameliard, and was smitten with love for her and desired to make her his bride. But first of all he wished to be near her, and he asked Merlin to furnish him with some disguise by which he could accomplish this without her knowledge.
Merlin agreed and gave Arthur a cap on which he had cast a spell. For when Arthur put it on he appeared to be no longer a king, but a simple gardener's boy. On pain of discovery, however, he must always wear the cap, for when he took it off he showed himself once more as Arthur the King.
So Arthur went to Cameliard disguised as a gardener's boy, and he sought work in the castle grounds where he might often behold the Lady Guinevere. And for some days he worked in the gardens while she walked there and looked upon her to his heart's content—and every time he saw her she seemed to be more beautiful than before.
One morning, however, while he was bathing at the fountain with his cap laid aside, the Lady Guinevere looked out of the window and saw him. She did not know he was the King, she only knew that a very handsome knight was bathing at her fountain,—but in a trice the King put on his cap again and became the gardener's boy, who said that none had been there save himself.
At last, however, Arthur was discovered by Guinevere, although even then she knew not that he was the King; and after this had happened he went forth on a quest in her behalf and overcame four knights whom he sent to her as his captives, with orders to serve her and do what she desired.
These knights were well known to Arthur and were his friends; but like Guinevere they had not known him, because he kept down the visor of his helmet when he did battle with them. And they returned and told Guinevere that they were conquered by an unknown knight who had ordered them to come to her and do her bidding.
Guinevere was guarded in the castle of Cameliard by a knight named Sir Mordaunt of North Umber who was greatly desirous of wedding her. And at last he kept her a close prisoner and with six companions mounted guard before the castle proclaiming that unless some champions came forward in her behalf he would marry her against her will.
At this Guinevere was greatly distressed, for she had grown to love the unknown knight that she had seen in the garden, and she asked the four that were in her charge to go forth and do battle with the knights that guarded her. But they would not, although they were bound to do her word, because they were angered that she should demand this of them when she knew that they were only four against seven. When Arthur returned, however, he placed himself at their head and they charged the seven knights so fiercely that three were slain in their onslaught and the others fled. And shortly after this Guinevere was brought to Arthur for marriage, and he disclosed his state as King, and their nuptials were celebrated with gorgeous pomp and ceremony.
Merlin told Arthur to ask from Guinevere's father, whose name was Leodegrance and who was himself a king, a marvelous round table that he possessed. This table had magic powers, said Merlin, and Arthur would add greatly to the strength of his kingdom by possessing it. The table had many marvelous properties,—and the chairs that went with it were equally marvelous. The names of those who should sit in them appeared in letters of gold when such knights approached, and disappeared again when they rose to depart. There was also a seat richer than the rest for the King himself—and another chair, wonderfully carven and wrought with gems, that was called the "Seat Perilous," where even Arthur might not sit—for that chair was reserved for the knight who should look upon the "Holy Grail," a vessel containing the blood of Christ that had been taken to Heaven on his death. It could only be beheld by the purest knight that went in quest of it, which Arthur could not do, because he must rule his kingdom.
Then Arthur gathered all the best knights in the realm about him and they were called "the Knights of the Round Table" and they bound themselves by vows to noble deeds and gallant conduct, to redress wrongs, to think no evil or allow it to appear in any guise at the Round Table. And through the deeds of his knights of the Round Table Arthur's name became even greater in his kingdom than it had ever been before.
But little by little doubt and suspicion began to appear among Arthur's knights, and these were fostered by the evil plots of Arthur's nephew, Modred. Above all, Modred hated a knight named Sir Lancelot, who, with the exception of the King, was the bravest knight in Britain. Sir Lancelot was loved by Queen Guinevere, and loved her in return. And through Modred's schemes it befell that fighting commenced between Lancelot and other knights of the Round Table, in which many were slain. And then the whole kingdom of Britain was torn apart and Arthur's former glory was lost; and at last the unhappy King even found himself at war with his former friend, Sir Lancelot himself, who had stolen the love of the Queen.
After bitter fighting Sir Lancelot went back to his own country of Brittany, taking Queen Guinevere with him, beyond the sea, and Arthur pursued him there. And while Arthur was laying siege to Sir Lancelot's castle, the false knight Modred rose against Arthur in his own country, hatching a rebellion against the King, so Arthur had to give up the siege of Lancelot's castle and return to Britain to fight against the traitors that had risen from the ranks of his own subjects.
This was the last war that Arthur ever engaged in. Merlin had foretold that when the seats at the Round Table had all been filled, Arthur's kingdom must gradually decline. The seats had been filled long since, and the decline had come about through the distrust and the evil deeds of Arthur's own knights. And now he must fight a number of them both in the ranks of Lancelot and under the banner of Modred.
In a battle with Modred's forces King Arthur's army fought so fiercely that when dusk fell almost all the men on both sides who had engaged in that fight were slain, and none were left but the leaders of the opposing forces. And Arthur engaged in personal combat with Modred just as the sun was going down. Now Arthur had long since lost the scabbard of his sword, Excalibur, so it was possible to wound or slay him in battle, although he that stood up against the stroke of that sword must also be slain. And this very thing came to pass in Arthur's battle with Modred. For as Arthur ran him through, Modred struck him so terrible a blow on the head that his helmet was cut in two and the sword sank deep in his skull.
Grievously wounded, Arthur was carried from the field by one of his few remaining knights, named Sir Bedivere; and Arthur, seeing that he must die, gave to Sir Bedivere the sword, Excalibur, telling him to throw it in the lake.
When Sir Bedivere approached the shore of the mysterious lake, which lay not far from the spot where Arthur had been wounded, his heart misgave him at throwing away so beautiful and magical a sword. Therefore he hid the sword in the rushes and returned to the dying King, telling him that he had done as was commanded. But Arthur did not believe him, and asked him what he had seen when Excalibur sank beneath the waves. And Bedivere told him that he had seen nothing except the rippling of the water under the wind and the rustle of the reeds at the margin of the lake. And Arthur told Sir Bedivere to return and do as he had been commanded, for the King knew well that he had been deceived.
Once again Sir Bedivere returned to the lake and once again he came back to Arthur with a lying tale that he had obeyed the King's commands. Then Arthur in high anger commanded him to deceive a dying man no longer and Sir Bedivere at last went back and threw Excalibur into the lake.
As Excalibur hurtled through the air and approached the water a great hand arose from the depths and caught it by the hilt, waved it thrice in the air and vanished beneath the waves, and Sir Bedivere returned to Arthur and told him what he had seen.
Then Arthur knew that Sir Bedivere had indeed spoken the truth, and the dying King put one more command upon him—namely to bear him to the shore of the lake where he had thrown Excalibur.
As they approached the shore a barge was seen cleaving the water without visible motive power, and on the barge which was draped all in black were four damsels who wept bitterly. When the prow of the barge reached the shore, Arthur commanded Sir Bedivere to lay him on it—and at once it moved out into the mists of the lake with the black robed figures bending over the King. And Arthur called out to Sir Bedivere in farewell, telling him that he was going to Avalon either to die or to be healed of his grievous wound, and he asked Sir Bedivere to pray for his immortal soul.
From that day Arthur was not seen again, although many believed that he would come back and rescue his countrymen when dangers beset them; and to-day the legends of Arthur leave it doubtful if he will return or not. But the great King as well as the realm that he ruled over have been lost forever in the mists of time. And the story of Arthur is ended.
The Arabs are a dark skinned people that live near or on the great deserts of Arabia, one of the hottest and most desolate regions of the world. They have lived there for thousands of years in roving tribes and many of their traits and manners have come from their association with the desert, and the hardships that they have been obliged to undergo in making their journeys upon its fiery sands.
Thousands of years ago the Arabs had a religion that was not entirely different from that of the Jews. As the years passed, however, they began to turn away from the old beliefs and to worship stone idols. These idols were set up in their principal cities and villages, notably in the city of Mecca, where there also remained a temple, built in the time of the older religion, that the Arabs still held to be sacred.
As the Arabian tribes were very different from each other in many ways, it was only natural that their religion should grow different also. Some men worshipped the fire and some worshipped the stars. Some became Jews or Christians. For the most part, however, they worshipped stone images and many wise men preached and labored among them in vain to bring back the old religion of their fathers.
Such was the state of affairs when a child was born in the city of Mecca who was destined to become one of the greatest prophets of the world, and draw all the Arabs into a single religion that would spread as far as Spain and India. This child was named Mohammed, and he was born five hundred and seventy years after the death of Christ. His father, Abdallah, died soon after he was born, and Mohammed's mother, according to custom, gave the baby into the charge of a nurse who might rear him in the free, open air of the desert where Arabs believed that children became strong and vigorous.
Mohammed was strong in many ways, but had one great physical failing: he was often seized with fits of a kind that nowadays would be ascribed to the disease called epilepsy. In those days, however, these fits were thought to be the work of devils who entered into and possessed the body. When he was six years old his mother died and he was brought up by his grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib, a poor man, but one who was greatly respected by everybody that knew him.
Abd al-Muttalib put him to work. When he grew old enough, he watched the flocks of the people of Mecca, and gained a meager livelihood by doing this. He had no schooling, but once or twice had the opportunity to travel, when he went with his uncle to southern Arabia and to Syria, where he saw people different from those of Mecca and learned of many different forms of religion.
When Mohammed was twenty-five years old there befell a change in his fortunes. In this year he entered the service of a rich widow, whose name was Kadijah, and went with her to the great fairs and bazaars on which journeys, perhaps, he acted as her camel driver. Kadijah soon fell in love with the young man of bright, piercing eyes and thoughtful demeanor, and one day she drew Mohammed aside and told him that she loved him, offering to become his wife and to give him her hand in marriage. By marrying Kadijah Mohammed became rich. He managed his wife's affairs at Mecca with great success, and became greatly respected there as a man of business. He and Kadijah had six children, four girls and two boys, but both of the boys died in their infancy.
But Mohammed was soon marked as being different from other men. He spent a great deal of his time in religious contemplation and would go off by himself into the solitude of the mountains, to think and ponder without interruption.
When he was forty years old he went one day to a mountain called Hira which was not far from Mecca. And here a trance came upon him and in the night he believed that he saw the angel Gabriel. The angel was surrounded by a flaming aureole and in his hand he held a scroll of fire from which he commanded Mohammed to read. Now Mohammed knew not how to read or write, but to his amazement he found that the words on the scroll were quite plain to him, and he read a wonderful message that proclaimed the glory and the greatness of God, whom he called Allah.
Mohammed was frightened by what he had seen; he thought that perhaps the form of the angel had been taken by some evil spirit to lead him on to his undoing. But at last he had another vision in which Gabriel came to him again and called upon him to arise and preach the word of Allah throughout the land and bring back to the Arabs the faith of their fathers and the worship of a single god. And then for the first time Mohammed believed his visions and thought himself God's Prophet, and he called the new faith that he was to teach the faith of Islam, which means righteousness.